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 Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,421 feet
 Post Date:  09/12/2010
 Date Climbed:   09/08/2010
 Posted By:  ChrisM

 SW Slopes--the shorter but steeper   

I arrived at the TH with headlights blaring in the dark with overcast clouds. No one else there. Got ready for an early rise, read over the route description, and got the pack ready. I had originally planned to go up the East Slopes, but with a weather cancel last week on Harvard, I wanted to make this climb happen, keeping safe, of course. A friend recommended going up the Southwest slope, instead; it would be harder, but quicker. I am not usually into last minute changes, but I did have time to research the route, although, I was a little apprehensive about the steepness.

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Looking back on the trail and seeing a little dusting of snow.


Per my standard, I set the alarm for 4:30am and went back to sleep when it went off and finally got up about 5:30 and hit the trail at 6:15am. Still no moonlight or stars and a little sprinkle. Not a good sign, I thought.

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My favorite rock--on the return I took a short side trip

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You'll see this "path" opening on the left that goes nowhere.

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Go around the rock to the right and up this "V."


The first mile or so was extremely pleasant. I came upon a huge boulder surrounded by brush which had two routes near it and I took the one up the side of this rock which has a "V" shaped path. This was the correct direction. So coming upon this boulder, you need to follow it around to the right and go up.

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Getting further along up the trail and a great view of Mt. Elbert.

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The junction sign. Go right and begin the real ascent

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This is the trip photo, but of Mt Elbert


The well defined trail continues through brush and opens up a little. Then you come to signed junction that directs you to turn right. This is where the fun begins. The trail is fine for awhile, then there are rocks everywhere! Not to mention steep, but the steepness is not the problem, trail finding could be. Amazingly, I navigated through the rocks quite well. The best way I can describe this area is like this. You know those pictures you look at and all you see is nothing descriptive, but if you stare at it a little, a really nice image becomes visible? Well, that's what happened to me. There is a stepped stone escalator, not moving, that goes all the way through this area. It's a little lower than the surrounding terrain and little itty bitty cairns mark the way. Every once in awhile, I had to stop and look which direction it was going, but it was there. Much easier than trying to rock hop.

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What the rocks look like, not to worry, the trail is not visible yet!

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More rocks, then the terrain gets more appealing

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A good view looking up the rock field.

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Steps that are clearly visible.

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Steps that are not so clear. Can you see the little cairn ?


The trail between the rocks and the initial ridge line is steep, but a series of switchbacks make it no more difficult than the other mountains I've climbed this year or maybe I'm just getting in shape. Since I had prepared myself, through all the other informative TRs climbers have provided, I knew that the summit was not visible and there was no sense in wishing it were there. On my down, and in this area, I ran into my first humans of the day. I was asked if the peak ahead was the summit and I said, nope! It's waaaay over there with several false summits, pointing to where you can't see. Looking at the map, I believe that peak to be South Massive.

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You can see the end of the rock field and the nice traverse which heads toward South Massive.

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Once past the sloping meadows, the rocks return, but not to worry, there's a good path!

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Bypass this gully of rocks on the left, heading toward the ridge

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South Massive and reaching the ridge

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Here's the sign directing which way to head down. I was on the N. Halfmoon Trail

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This is S. Massive in the distance and the trail to the Massive TH

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Still going up

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View of N Halfmoon Lakes. Note the cloud conditions


When you peak around the corner to see the summit of Massive, there are at least three points which might be the summit and it is, of course, the last one. At least that is what my GPS said. The jaunt across the spine of this mammoth was easy and by this time enjoyable. Just to make sure I summited, I went over the rest of bumps on the way back I'm not going this far to miss the top on a technicality! Cover all your bases, or something like that. I was unable to find any marker or evidence of humanity other than the little spot surrounded by rocks. Looked like conning tower, the spot submariners stand when their boat is on the surface. If that's the case, Massive is one big boat! After all my imaginative thoughts, my attention was drawn to the weather which was rapidly degrading. The weather had been a factor on the entire hike. Usually cloudy, with intermittent rain and an occasional dusting of snow. It was windy on the way up, but not on the summit ridge and only light breezes on the way back. Visibility was now going down and I quickened my pace only to run into the two hikers I had met before, plus about 8 others going up while I was on my way down.

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Interesting rock formation. No blue sky

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My buddy was coming over to check me out so I scurried up the hill

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I got to make the first footprints! Still heading up...

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More up.

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The highest point on the top of this mountain, finally.

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Standing in the conning tower sailing the massive sub.

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Self portrait, clouds begin to lower.

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A little more cloudy, but lower elevation is still okay.


On the down climb, the weather continued to deteriorate, although it was worse at the higher altitudes, I actually had intermittent sunshine on the rocks and below. I was really proud of myself for not getting misplaced during the hike, but then I got mixed up at the rock I mentioned earlier and went right after going down the "V" which I quickly figured out. Should have gone left. Got a photo of a marmot sunning himself, though.

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From this angle, it looks steep, but don't they all?


My climb time up was a little shorter than my trip down. I think I'm taking more time going down to prevent slips and put less stress on my knees. I am happy about being in better condition, but still need to preserve the joints. My goal of 1000' per hour was again met on this mountain. It seems Massive gets a lot of notoriety for its size, but I found it to be a beautiful mountain on this route. It had the greatest variety of trail types: trees, bushes, rocks, open, meadows, steep, not steep, and a little traverse. My concern for the steepness was really unfounded, after actually climbing this route, but don't tell anyone, it might spoil the tranquility of the Southwest Slope!

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The marmot worth getting misplaced for a few seconds


When I left the TH, the weather was getting worse and there were still 6 cars remaining which meant the people I met coming up while I was going down were still out there. Minutes after getting back to US 24, it began to rain in earnest and then harder. Never heard thunder or saw lightening so at least they weren't in a life threatening situation, just wet.

The trail between the rocks and the initial ridge line is steep, but a series of switchbacks make it no more difficult than the other mountains I've climbed this year or maybe I'm just getting in shape. Since I had prepared myself, through all the other informative TRs climbers have provided, I knew that the summit was not visible and there was no sense in wishing it were there. On my down, and in this area, I ran into my first humans of the day. I was asked if the peak ahead was the summit and I said, nope! It's waaaay over there with several false summits, pointing to where you can't see. Looking at the map, I believe that peak to be South Massive.

When you peak around the corner to see the summit of Massive, there are at least three points which might be the summit and it is, of course, the last one. At least that is what my GPS said. The jaunt across the spine of this mammoth was easy and by this time enjoyable. Just to make sure I summited, I went over the rest of bumps on the way back I'm not going this far to miss the top on a technicality! Cover all your bases, or something like that. I was unable to find any marker or evidence of humanity other than the little spot surrounded by rocks. Looked like conning tower, the spot submariners stand when their boat is on the surface. If that's the case, Massive is one big boat! After all my imaginative thoughts, my attention was drawn to the weather which was rapidly degrading. The weather had been a factor on the entire hike. Usually cloudy, with intermittent rain and an occasional dusting of snow. It was windy on the way up, but not on the summit ridge and only light breezes on the way back. Visibility was now going down and I quickened my pace only to run into the two hikers I had met before, plus about 8 others going up while I was on my way down.

On the down climb, the weather continued to deteriorate, although it was worse at the higher altitudes, I actually had intermittent sunshine on the rocks and below. I was really proud of myself for not getting misplaced during the hike, but then I got mixed up at the rock I mentioned earlier and went right after going down the "V" which I quickly figured out. Should have gone left. Got a photo of a marmot sunning himself, though.

My climb time up was a little shorter than my trip down. I think I'm taking more time going down to prevent slips and put less stress on my knees. I am happy about being in better condition, but still need to preserve the joints. My goal of 1000' per hour was again met on this mountain. It seems Massive gets a lot of notoriety for its size, but I found it to be a beautiful mountain on this route. It had the greatest variety of trail types: trees, bushes, rocks, open, meadows, steep, not steep, and a little traverse. My concern for the steepness was really unfounded, after actually climbing this route, but don't tell anyone, it might spoil the tranquility of the Southwest Slope!

When I left the TH, the weather was getting worse and there were still 6 cars remaining which meant the people I met coming up while I was going down were still out there. Minutes after getting back to US 24, it began to rain in earnest and then harder. Never heard thunder or saw lightening so at least they weren't in a life threatening situation, just wet.



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